By Kimmie Collins
Apr 8, 2020
Surveying his plant site, Blake Monroe of the future holds up four fingers to his employee. The employee blushes slightly, but nods and immediately slides his safety glasses over his nose. Satisfied, Monroe smiles and turns his attention to other matters.
Monroe’s hand gesture is a system he learned from a conference with the American Society of Safety Professionals to make safety management more meaningful to his employees. Each of the four fingers represent one of the most important people in the employee’s life and the people who would be most affected if a workplace accident were to occur.
Blake Monroe of the present surveys the hiking trails of Sullivan County Lake, mentally reviewing advice from his mentor, Andy Perry. Though he looks calm, Monroe’s mind is racing as his plans the next meetings for his student organizations, Alpha Sigma Phi and American Society of Safety Professionals.
For the junior from Graysville, Ind., safety management strikes close to the heart. Before coming to Indiana State, his foot was crushed in a workplace accident. “It ripped off all my toenails and broke all my toes,” he explained. “My boss was at the hospital with me after it happened, and I literally asked if I could go back to work.” Monroe’s injury kept him out of work for a month, and, displeased with how his company handled the situation, he was inspired to pursue safety management. “Getting hurt and seeing how companies treated people really determined what I want to do,” he said.
Growing up, Monroe always dreamed of graduating from Indiana State. After earning an associate degree in process technology from Lincoln Trail College, he turned his attention to researching safety management degree programs, and, to his delight, the program at Indiana State was a perfect fit. “A lot of schools around the area don’t realize that we have one of the best safety management programs in the country,” he explained. “The safety management program has a wide variety of teachers and instructors. Their combined experience is really remarkable, and I don’t think any safety program can match the knowledge of all of our instructors.”
Andy Perry, Monroe’s advisor and instructor, helped push him out of his comfort zone. “He’s always been there to guide me,” Monroe said. “He has over 15 years of industry contracting experience.”
Perry and his colleagues provide safety management students like Monroe hands-on opportunities. “In my hazardous operations class, someone came in, put on the equipment, and ran through different drills for us,” Monroe said. “For a fire safety class, we learned about fire extinguishers, and we actually took a tour of Sycamore Towers to figure out their fire systems.”
Monroe appreciates the opportunities he has been given and is passionate about sharing the safety management program with local high school students.
Monroe is no stranger to interacting and engaging with others. He spent a year singing in Nashville alongside major country stars, including Morgan Wallen and John Langston. “I sang pretty much seven days a week,” he grinned. “I gained a Tennessee family that pretty much did everything I needed.” As his singing career took off, Monroe gained over 22,000 social media followers, becoming famous for his Jeep. “Major companies would message me and ask if they could sponsor me and buy equipment for my Jeep,” he said. “I was paid to travel around to different Jeep events.”
As a Sycamore, Monroe expanded his natural charisma and abilities. During his time at Indiana State, he’s served as the president of the American Society of Safety Professionals and the vice-president of growth for his fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi. “Different leadership qualities I have learned over the past two years have helped me with interviews and in the workplace,” he said.
Though he never pictured himself in Greek life, his fraternity has provided him with some of his “best friends for life.” Monroe and his fraternity worked together as a team, and the organization proudly welcomed its largest recruiting class ever.
Monroe also discovered new opportunities through the American Society of Safety Professionals, including community service and professional development. The organization has a strong partnership with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering every year. As president, Monroe has attended several safety management conferences in Bloomington, Ind. and Indianapolis. In addition, he is coordinating Safety Day for the upcoming fall, an event for safety management alumni to share their careers with current students.
Monroe’s dream is to pursue advanced degrees, with the long-term goal of becoming a plant supervisor. He hopes to help his employees so that they never have to feel the true meaning of the four-fingered symbol. “I’m a people person,” he said. “I want to teach them about safety and how it can save them from having more hardships at home.”